“Ma’am, you need to cover up.”
These were the words delivered by a North Carolina judge who ordered a woman to leave his courtroom after she appeared before him while breastfeeding her child.
“For you not to realise that, is absolutely ridiculous," the judge continued. "Step outside, and cover up right now. Stand up, and go.”
The admonishment of District Court Judge Peter Knight - captured on an audio recording - has triggered anger and an outcry of support for the young woman, Stephanie Rhodus.
The incident happened earlier this week when Ms Rhodus appeared before the court in Henderson County, during a child custody relating to one of her other three children.
“I was shocked,” Ms Rhodus later told ABC News. “He was so condescending and so aggressive, and I knew that by law I had the right to breastfeed my child there, and I wanted to declare that I had the right to do that there, but I was terrified.“
Ms Rhodus says her 8-month-old son, Archer, did not like to be covered up when he was being breast-fed.
“I was terrified. I never expected something like that,” she added.
“It caught me completely off-guard. I couldn’t think straight to present my case properly. It was just - I was in shock.”
Under North Carolina law, mothers are allowed to breast-feed their children in public.
In a statement emailed to the media, the judge, Mr Knight, said that his court routinely accommodated women who were nursing, including while they were waiting for a case to be called in the courtroom.
“However, when a case is called and a party is participating in a formal hearing before the court, all litigants are expected to respect the same rules of procedure, decorum and dress,” he added.
“That was the case here. If breastfeeding accommodations were needed, those certainly would have been made.”
Ms Rhodus treatment has resulted in a wave of support for her. Two women have used Facebook to organise a “nurse-in” for her outside the courtroom next Tuesday.
One poster, Rebecca Kepner, wrote: “I just read this story to my son and the updated quote from the judge. My son was extremely confused as to why a baby was not allowed to nurse its Mom especially if it was keeping the baby quiet and calm.”
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